18 Apr 2015

Australian teenagers held over alleged terror plot

Five Australian teenagers are arrested on suspicion of plotting an attack at a veterans’ day ceremony in Melbourne, officials say.

The men aged 18 and 19 were detained in the city’s southeast in the early hours of Saturday in a series of raids, police said, as the culmination of a month-long operation code-named Operation Rising.

Senior police officials said they were confident the threat had been contained. They gave few details of the plan, but said the initial target was police officers, referring to potential use of “edged weapons”.

‘Islamic state’

Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters that evidence suggested the suspects had been influenced by Islamic State militants. He told a news conference in Melbourne that the plan targeted “ANZAC Day activity in Melbourne which included targeting police officers”.

Above: police conducted several raids in Melbourne on Saturday

ANZAC Day on 25 April is an major annual holiday in Australia and New Zealand marking the date of the first Gallipoli landings in 1915, in which large numbers of Australian and New Zealand troops fought and died.

The run-up to this year’s centenary has been marked by numerous television programmes about the campaign, fought against the Muslim Ottoman Empire in what is now western Turkey. Concerns have risen in recent weeks that Islamic State militants might use the anniversary to carry out attacks on Australian targets.

‘Terrorism offences’

Around 200 police officers were involved in the raids in Melbourne, Gaughan said, and enquiries were ongoing. Police said the alleged plot could have been executed any time in the next week. In a statement, police said two 18-year-old men have been arrested regarding alleged terrorism-related offences.

A third 18-year-old has been arrested in relation to alleged weapons offences, while two other men aged 18 and 19 were in custody and assisting police with their enquiries.